Our guide to Bergen
Bergen is one of Norway’s most atmospheric cities. Second only to Oslo, the vibrant, atmospheric port boasts a spectacular setting, surrounded by seven hills and protected on three sides by a smattering of carelessly strewn islands.
The city itself has a smorgasbord of attractions to discover and a wealth of history to uncover. There’s some fine and contrasting architecture, a number of museums and a bustling harbour that harks back to the city’s nautical and trading heritage.
Then there’s Bergen’s self-styled claim to be the gateway to the fjords, a stunning stretch of coastline awash with natural wonders. Essentially it’s a winning combination. With some seriously long daylight hours over the summer in which to explore, you don’t need another reason to visit one of the world’s great ports.
Explore on foot to get a real feel for the city and take advantage of the opportunity to drop in on cafés and restaurants as you go; look out in particular for the Torget fish market.
You can’t beat grabbing an outdoor table at the fish market next to the harbour or sitting in the shade beneath the glass structure that houses the Bergen tourist information office and ordering a plate of seafood by weight.Salmon and shellfish are deliciously fresh, whilst king crab and lobster demonstrate the bounty of the local waters. Fish not your thing? Try reindeer sausage and cloudberry jam instead. Food is fairly expensive but the quality is undeniable.
For a drink, head to the handsome Grand Terminus Hotel during the late afternoon or evening and seek out the Whiskey Bar; with 700 different typres, it’s not just the best stocked whiskey bar in Bergen, it’s the finest in the whole of Norway. The large, atmospheric, wood-panelled room off the main hotel lobby has battered sofas and seats into which to sink and some smart lamps and design touches to admire as you sip a dram or two.
The Fløibanen funicular railway
To put the port into context, ride the The Fløibanen funicular railway from the lower terminus on Vertlidsallmenningen to the top of Mount Fløyen. The railway, which dates from the 1910s, ferries you quickly and smoothly to the 320m high summit in just seven minutes; from here you get a superb panoramic view of Bergen and may even be able to spot your ship, assuming of course the weather is clear.
Drink in the view from the café-restaurant at the top then amble back down to the city on wooded footpaths, where you’re afforded occasional glimpses of the city laid out below. Another birds-eye view can be had from the top of Mount Ulriken, reached via the Ulriksbanen cable car, whose lower terminus stands about 4 miles east of the centre of Bergen.
Once you’ve got your bearings from your birds-eye view, return to the harbour and head to Bryggen, a pretty UNESCO-listed wharf of warehouses, medieval homes and traders properties that mark where Bergen began. Here, German merchants transformed the city into the heart of trade for all Scandinavia.
Go beyond the brightly painted facades and walk through the narrow alleyways to get a sense of what livinghere might have been like. The houses are wooden and wonderfully restored. For a further introduction to the Hanseatic League and Bergen’s position within it, take a guided tour or drop in on the brightly painted Hanseatic Museum, a rough timber structure from 1704 on the corner of Bryggen and Torget.
Spend a cultural couple of hours first walking around Lille Lungegârdsvann, the attractive lake at the centre of ’new’ Bergen, then drop in on the string of art galleries that line the south side of the lake. First among the collections here is an extensive number of paintings by Edvard Munch in the Bergen Kunstmuseum. Look out too for 18th- and 19th-century pieces by other Norwegian and international artists including Miro, Picasso, Kandinsky and Klee.
Fantoft Stave Church
Around 4 miles south of the city centre in an area called Paradise stands the distinctive Fantoft Stave Church. The original church was built on the banks of the Sognefjord around 1150 but moved to the outskirts of Bergen in 1883. Subsequently it burnt down due to arson in 1992. A perfect copy has since been reconstructed here though, allowing you to admire the distinctive style employed by early Christians.
Troldhaugen (Hill of the Trolls)
About 5 miles south of Bergen on the shore of a pretty lake stands Troldhaugen, the home of Edvard Greig, Norway’s most celebrated composer who is perhaps best known for the Peer Gynt Suite. Greig lived here for the last 22 years of his life and the place is imbued with a sense of the man.
Greig composed most of his music in a small hut on the lakeshore. The hut remains but is now dwarfed by the Troldsalen, a concert hall that hosts recitals of Greig’s works during the summer months. The man himself is interred in a cliff with his wife, the singer Nina Hagerup; wander off the path to look for the twin distinctive memorial stones overlooking the lake that mark the spot.
Lots of luxury cruise ships visit Bergen, which is certainly a great location for cruise passengers as there’s so much to see and do within easy reach of where the cruise ships dock. To find a luxury cruise that calls at this popular destination on the west coast of Norway, please click here to contact one of our cruise specialists.